Chinese Authorities Block Reporting From Larung Gar as Demolition Proceeds

Social media and phone calls are closely monitored, as authorities search for people who may have already sent images outside the area.

A hillside formerly covered by dwellings and other structures is shown after destruction at Larung Gar in a recent photo.

In a bid to limit scrutiny of their destruction of a large Tibetan Buddhist study center, authorities in a Tibetan-populated county in southwestern China’s Sichuan province are clamping down on telephone calls and messages sent by social media from the area, according to a local source.

Since the work of demolition began at the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county on July 20, “phones and social media have been closely watched by the authorities,” a resident of the academy told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“No one is allowed to go near the areas being destroyed or to take photos or video of the demolition activities going on there,” RFA’s source said.

These restrictions have now blocked all reporting on the scope of the destruction taking place, and authorities are actively searching for anyone who may have already sent images of leveled dwellings and other structures to outside contacts, he said.

“My own house, which was built with money provided by my family, was torn down with no concern at all for the people living there,” RFA’s source said.

“Crews operating huge machines are still busily at work,” he said.

Many thousands of Tibetans and Han Chinese study at the sprawling Larung Gar complex, which was founded in 1980 by the late religious teacher Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok and is one of the world’s largest and most important centers for the study of Tibetan Buddhism.

The order now to reduce the number of Larung Gar’s residents by about half to a maximum level of 5,000 is not a county plan “but comes from higher authorities,” with China’s president Xi Jinping taking a personal interest in the matter, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

Monastic leaders at Larung Gar have urged the institute’s monks and nuns not to resist the destruction of their homes, and the work is believed to have gone ahead so far without interference. Armed security forces have meanwhile been stationed at the work site and in nearby counties to discourage attempts at protest.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.